As they do every year, Kurdish Jews in Israel gathered over the Sukkot holiday for their annual Saharana festival. The ancient community came together to sing, dance, eat, and trade stories from the old country in their traditional Aramaic tongue. Many expressed solidarity with the Kurds' struggle against Da'esh (IS terrorists) and criticism of the Turks' reluctance to help them. Report in the Times of Israel:
But this year, amid the music and revelry in the northern town of Yokne’am, an unshakable sense of worry permeated the atmosphere and conversations. In speeches and in private chats around bowls of steaming Kubbeh soup, Israel’s Kurds expressed anger and concern over the plight of their Kurdish brethren fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
“If you send me, I’ll go to the Kurds to fight Daesh,” said old-timer Yossi Mizrahi with a smile, using the Arabic name for IS. “I’d go tomorrow,” promised Mizrahi, born in the town of Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan.
Sitting with his wife and other Kurdish friends, Mizrahi, well beyond fighting age, said he follows closely the developments in Kurdistan. IS are “animals,” he said. “Garbage. And they won’t last long.”
He didn’t have much kinder words for Turkey, a long-time opponent of Kurdish national aspirations, and currently unwilling to help the Kurds battling IS fighters in the town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. “The Turks want them to destroy the Kurds. Turkey is disgusting.”
Turkey sees the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD — and its military wing, which is fighting IS militants — as an extension of the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terror group by the US and NATO.
Aharon (who asked that his last name be withheld), born in Mosul, Iraq, more than 80 years ago, travels to Kurdistan regularly for business. He speaks with his contacts there every two days, and recently helped arrange a Kurdish agricultural delegation to Israel.
When the fighting reached his childhood city, he was especially concerned. “As someone who was born in Mosul, I was very afraid that they would blow up the Mosul Dam. But America helped them, and the Kurds took control over the dam.”
He takes great pride in his efforts to help the Kurdish medical and agricultural sectors grow. “We were in the same situation that they are in today. They are hated all around. They don’t want them. They don’t want to give them a state. We were in the same situation….[Legendary Kurdish leader] Mustafa Barzani was here many times. And during the 60s and 70s, we sent many military services there. Officers in civilian dress, who trained their army to fight against Saddam. So they say to us, you helped us in wars, help us to be independent economically.”
Israel should help too, Aharon urged, but quietly, “without the name. We don’t want to arouse Arab states against them, and not Turkey either.”
Haviv Saidoff from Karkur, a former Bank Leumi clerk, came to Jerusalem from the city of Duhok in 1939. He is in touch with an Armenian woman back in Kurdistan, who sends him regular updates on the fighting in the area.
They communicate in Aramaic, but she writes the language in Arabic script, while he writes in Hebrew. “So we write Aramaic in English letters. We wrote about three days ago…. She sends us pictures, all sorts of things.
“All the world needs to attack IS. As for the Kurds, from the way they run their affairs, they deserve help.”
Some attending the festival even have family in the eye of the storm in Syria. Sima Levy, dressed in traditional Kurdish garb, came to Israel from Qamishli in 1962 at the age of 18. But she left an older sister behind. She stayed in touch with her sister, who moved with her family to Aleppo, meeting with her in Jordan and Turkey, and sending her money.
But her sister was never willing to move to Israel. “They said they want to,” said Levy. “But she won’t leave her family and come here.”